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Utopia in Economics and Literature

Utopia as a distinctive genre of writing is to describe the ideal society – “place of nowhere”, as the word meant in Greek. As a genre utopian literature overlaps with science fiction and satire. In modern times dystopia became the more attractive genre because writers use it to express their critiques of idealizations. In economic thinking therefore “utopian” now has a commonly pejorative connotation, not a positive or scientific one. One of the purposes of the course will be to show the contexts in which neoclassical theories of free-markets or scientific socialism became utopian and vice versa. Despite its liability to faults, classic utopian literature, as we will see in this course, often contained a fresh description of the real world. Another aim of the course will be to see the boundaries, type of organization, tendency to violence, the economics (property, money, labor), technological development and inner contradictions. We will see these different points are common in various utopias such as religious (chiliasm), conservative, socialist or liberal ones.

The utopian tradition is rich, and time will be limited, so we will read only such classical books as “Republic” of Plato, “Utopia” of Thomas More (1516), “The New Organon” of Francis Bacon (1620), Charles Fourier on Harmony and Phalansteries (1808), early British political economic writing, and Frederick Engels. Special attention will be paid to Soviet utopias expressed in different forms by Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Chayanov, Alexander Bogdanov. Modern utopias will be taught through examples from movies, and partly on so called neoliberal thinking and practices.

Credits: 6/3

Course ID: ECON_E_200


Profile Economics

Taught this semester: No

Complies with general requirements: No

Course Type: Elective Course

Language: English